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Afghan President Proposes Three-Month Conditional Ceasefire With Taliban

REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail/File Photo

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a three-month ceasefire deal, effective Monday, if the insurgent group also agrees to lay down its arms.

In a televised address on Sunday, Ghani said the conditional truce would extend “until the prophet’s birthday provided that the Taliban reciprocate,” referring to Nov. 21, the date that Mohammed’s birthday is celebrated in Afghanistan.

“We call on the leadership of the Taliban to welcome the wishes of Afghans for a long-lasting and real peace,” Ghani added, according to Reuters.

Taliban leadership did not immediately respond to Ghani’s overture but later released a statement saying they planned to free “hundreds of prisoners” to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday. The group also plans to observe a four-day truce during the holiday pending approval from its leader Sheikh Haibatullah Akhunzada, Reuters reported, citing Taliban sources.

Talk of an extended ceasefire comes on the heels of a particularly violent week in Afghanistan that saw the Taliban inflict heavy casualties on Afghan security forces. Beginning Aug. 10, a five-day Taliban assault killed at least 150 Afghan soldiers and 95 civilians in the key provincial capital of Ghazni, just 75 miles south of Kabul. (RELATED: US Downplays Insurgency As Wave Of Taliban Assaults Kills Hundreds Of Afghan Soldiers)

Elsewhere, Taliban insurgents completely overran at least two Afghan National Army positions, killing or capturing hundreds of soldiers. The bloodletting was capped by an Islamic State suicide attack that killed dozens of students at a college preparation center in Kabul on Wednesday.

Ghani’s ceasefire proposal was limited to the Taliban and does not include Islamic State or other jihadist groups operating in Afghanistan. If the Taliban accepts the offer, it would be the second time in three months that both sides have observed a temporary cessation in hostilities. The Taliban stopped fighting during the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival in June, but rejected the government’s offer to extend the ceasefire. (RELATED: Taliban, Afghan Forces Celebrate Together As Holiday Ceasefire Holds)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed Ghani’s offer, saying he hoped it would “move the country closer to sustainable security.”

“We remain ready to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said in a statement Sunday. “There are no obstacles to talks. It is time for peace.”

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